Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Busy Spring Days

The weather here has been beautiful for the past couple of days. I do so love this time of year. We are still awaiting the time for my dh to leave for a faraway land, and this, of course, has the whole family feeling very sad. So, to have the beautiful sunshine during this time, is such a welcome sight for us. It doesn't take the heartache away, but it does remind us of God's beauty surrounding us regardless of the difficult circumstances we may find ourselves in. We are continuing our school days. Josiah will be finished with his second grade reading and phonics on Friday of this week. I have already ordered his third grade work, but don't know if it will actually be here when he is ready to start it the next week! He has a few lessons left in math and we are progressing well with history. I am teaching history to Joy and Josiah at the same time, just doing so on two different levels. Right now we are studying the time period of "Explorers to 1815." It is really amazing what I wasn't taught in school myself. I am gleaning quite an education right along with them!
Joanna is in the third six weeks of first grade. She is progressing well with her reading. She enjoys school a lot and is very good with handwriting as well. She desperately wants to catch up to her big brother Josiah...and knowing Joanna, she just might do it! She taught herself to ride a bike! She is one determined little girl! I just imagine what her strong will under the leadership of the Holy Spirit can accomplish for the Kingdom of God!
Joy is steadily progressing with school as well. She has become so much more disciplined in her studies. She spends most of her spare time either reading or crafting. And she is such a great help to me. She enjoys cooking as well and I can see her growing in her walk with the Lord. It is such a precious moment to see your children grow up before your eyes and have them able to talk with you about the things of God on a mature level.
We have put the soil in for our square foot gardening and I will be buying our plants very soon. We are so excited about learning this year in the garden. We want to be able to grow most of our own food one day. It will help with finances, as well as assuring us of health benefits in knowing how it was processed! I will be taking pictures and let you know our successes and failures along the way!
We are in the process of changing out clothing for the spring/summer season. That is always a momentous undertaking here! I am putting clothes in good to excellent condition in a container to take to the consignment shop to sell. We will use that money to buy other clothes we need, or to buy new shoes. Then, those clothes that are to be passed down, must be put in containers to put in the attic. It doesn't sound like much, but when you have five children to do this is quite a job. I try to do one child's clothes at a time because I cannot take the chaos of five bins out and clothes everywhere at one time!
We will post updates on dear husband while he is away. Please keep his safety in your prayers. Pray also for godly men that will be an encouragement to him while he is over there. Pray the Lord's blessings on his ministry while he is there.
Pray also for the children. Pray for the protection of their hearts during this time. Pray for their obedience, as they tend to show their hurt over the situation in unhealthy ways sometimes. Pray for my patience and strength during this trying time. Pray for our health. We know that God is ever with us...and that is what gives us the strength to face another day. We praise God for His faithfulness to us!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning Begins!

Here is another great dose of the reality of what things can quickly become when you have such a wonderful group of creative minded children! We strive to constantly teach our children that everything has a place and therefore, everything should be put in its place. However, there are times when they decide they want to pretend they are going on long of course, they have to pack. They pack their pockets, bins, bags, you name it. And oftentimes, things don't always get put back in their proper place. So, that's when Mommy has had enough of the chaos because of being asked for the tenth time where a particular toy is...that she says, "Time to rally the troops and clean!" I also use this time to take out everything...or I should say dump out everything and carefully it broken? Is it useful? How long has it been since they played with this?

Then I make the decision whether the toy stays, gets thrown away, taken to Goodwill, given to someone else who can use it, or does it just need another storage place right now. It is a large task, but when you have all the children helping, it doesn't really take that long.

We probably had this job completely done in a little under two hours. Not too bad when you see the before and after pictures!

We actually did this last weekend, but I didn't have time to download the pictures until now.

Here are some of my great helpers!

Lovely, isn't it?

I think we have a million little Legos...and we find them everywhere!

Top bunk: Josiah's bed.


Joel's bed.

The boy's dresser.

Look at that! You can see the floor!

We took all the toys out of every bin and put then in their proper places and put them back in the cubbies. Mission accomplished! Now, on to the next room! Happy cleaning!

Frugal Friday

"Laundry Day" by Kay Lamb Shannon
One of the things I have been passionate about lately is ways to save our family money. I am trying to make changes little by little that will have a positive effect on our savings. Part of striving to be more like a Proverbs 31 woman to my husband is being a good steward of the money for which he toils day after day. In the process of saving money, I am also trying to find ways to return to a more "simpler" that isn't always easier, but simpler in terms of being able to do many things for ourselves. One small step to doing this has been to make my own laundry detergent. And it truly is quite economical.
Here is the recipe I use:
2 cups soap flakes (I use Ivory soap because of it is so economical, especially when bought in bulk)
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Powder
Get a cheap cheese grater from Wal-Mart. Grate the Ivory soap. Then add the Borax and the Washing Powder. This is Washing Powder, not Baking Soda. I found the Borax at Wal-Mart, but I bought the Washing Powder from the commissary. I did not find it at Wal-Mart, so locating it might prove difficult. However, if you ever buy anything from Amazon, you could always buy the Washing Powder there and then get your total to $25 and you will not have to pay shipping charges. Mix all in a bucket and use two tablespoons per load. One thing this will not do is create suds. That is gets my clothes clean and smelling clean. The smell is not as strong as other detergents on the market. You could however help that by adding a few drops of essential oils to your wash, but since they are so expensive, I thought that defeated my goal of saving money. You can also use healthier soaps (those without chemicals) like Castille...or you could get the Fels Naptha soap. However, we use Ivory for washing and it does not effect us negatively, so I chose that for the cost effectiveness. My loads of laundry now cost me a little under 10 cents a load! And that is a real savings when dealing with a family of seven.
One other tip: instead of buying fabric softeners, use a little bit of vinegar. It works to help soften your clothes and it does not come out with a vinegar smell. It also aids in getting your clothes cleaner.
I have a front loader washer and this recipe has worked well for me. So, if you are looking for a more economical way to wash clothes, give it a try and let me know what you think! Happy washing!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Great Quote

Arbor by the Playhouse by Susan Rios

I found the following quote on a blog of a wonderful lady I met from a MOMYS group. That stands for "Mommys of Many Young Siblings." Cute huh? Anyway, when I read this from her blog...which by the way is called "Standing at the Crossroads," I thought it was wonderful and stated so perfectly the mess our country is in right now. Dr. Adrian Rogers said this before his death in much more would he be proclaiming it from the rooftops today!

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
Dr. Adrian Rogers

How beautifully said and just the thing we seem to be finding ourselves bailed into, not out of! Socialism has not worked successfully for any other government, country, nation, etc. in the history of the world. How is it that the White House and Congress can be so ignorant of history to actually think it will work for us? I thank God that my daily bread comes from Him and not a government hand out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Consumer Chrisitianity and Our Children

Have you ever heard the term "Consumer Christians?" I ran across that term the other day and thought it was a great way to describe many of the woes that we find in the evangelical circles of today. Consumer Christians is a term used to depict the entertainment driven state that we find in many of our churches, and therefore, in most of the Christian families sitting in the pews. Oftentimes, there is not much difference between a person who call themselves Christian, and those that say they have no religious persuasion at all. The many blights that we find in the overall economic mess our country is in with a new bailout happening on a daily basis...and the fact that we think it is actually possible to spend our way out of the same type of mentality we have in many churches and Christian homes across America. We have grown so accustomed to comfort, that we will sacrifice anything and everything for it. Many people would rather have a big brother government handout than their freedom and liberty. How did we get to this point? Where did we go wrong?

LifeWay Research just released a survey. Twelve hundred adults with children under the age of eighteen were asked about the role faith played in their parenting. Twenty-five percent said the most common definition of successful parenting included children with good moral values. Twenty-five percent described success as their children being happy adults. Twenty-two percent said they would be successful parents if their kids found success in life. Only around 14 percent of parents equaled success with their children having a faith relationship with God. What was even more disturbing is that 29 percent of those polled who claimed to be Christians said faith was not among the most important influences on their parenting.

We are a consumer, entertainment society that has lost its way. Many parents, even most Christians, think that if their children don't get involved with drugs, have a good career, are able to take their family on vacations, etc., that this constitutes the good life and they can rest easy knowing that their parenting job was a success. Even though those things are not bad, that is not how God defines successful parenting. There can be no true successful parenting without it being done through a complete faith and trust in Christ and with the Bible as the ultimate authority on parenting practices. It is not enough to take our children to church and leave faith teaching to the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, and the youth minister. God holds us as parents accountable for teaching our children about Him.
Deuteronomy 6: 4 -9 says, "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
It has to be a living, breathing faith. One that touches every aspect of our lives. It is not enough just to pray before every meal. Devotion to Christ should exude from us and when that happens we will be teaching and talking of Him all throughout our day. That is the kind of devotion and parenting that Christ expects.
We may raise children with good morals, at least by society's standards. But morals are not neutral and unless they are based on a faith in Christ and a Biblical foundation, those "good morals" may not be enough to withstand many of the blights they will face. How will they overcome the desire to get out of a marriage that may be uncomfortable at times? How will they stand up to moral ills without a strong faith? How will they be salt and light with just "good moral values?" It is easy for a morally good person to make the wrong decisions based on his/her need for comfort and happiness. It is quite another thing for a person to choose holiness before God regardless of what that decision may mean for them personally.

Christ never called us to raise good, moral, happy children. He has called us to raise a generation of warriors for Him. He has called us to raise godly, holy and joyfully content children. Joy in Christ does not always mean happiness by the world's standards. I do believe however, that the truest happiness will only come from a life committed to Christ. I am not advocating making our children's lives one of drudgery. We love to laugh and play with our children as much as others. But, we are also learning to train them in righteousness...and that is quite a responsibility...and one that we have too often failed at ourselves.

I do not write this as a woman who has all the answers. But, I serve a God that does. I am very much in the learning process with this thing called parenting myself. I fail and get back up, ask God to forgive and seek once again to be the kind of parent He has called me to be. Let us covenant together to raise a godly generation that will stand true to the teachings of Christ. Matthew 6: 33 says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (career, joy, provisions) will be added unto you." How will you define successful parenting with your children? For me, I will consider my job successful if I have five children who love the Lord with all their hearts and stand strong regardless of the temptations surrounding them. I want my children to stand before the Lord and hear "Well done thou good and faithful servant." And if they do that, it matters not what profession they choose, how much money they have, whether they travelled the world, how much money they have at retirement, how big their house is...and the list goes on. When we all give an account before our Maker what will be most important? Will it be the material things we have gained, or will it be what we did to minister to His children? After all, they really are His. He has only loaned them to us for a short time. May God bless you as you continue to fight the good fight!
Lord God, help me to see my task through Your eyes...and I pray you take my frail, imperfect attempts at parenting and bring about Your holiness that these five precious arrows would stand strong in a world of darkness. Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Favorite Family Recipe

One way to return more to a simple lifestyle is to begin to make more of your meals from scratch. I didn't originally begin cooking more from scratch as a statement on simple living as much as seeing the need for a more healthy lifestyle. Three of my children have had real health issues and we feel eating differently was one way the Lord led us to help make them healthier. This does not mean that we can't enjoy faithful standbys (like pizza), but it does mean the convenience of calling it in and picking it up or having it delivered in about 30 minutes is over! But, after cooking healthy pizza, I prefer it hands down to what we used to get with Pizza Hut and Domino's. So, here goes our recipe for pizza: (This recipe is based on the Zorjirushi Bread Recipe from the Breadbecker's cookbook).

1 1/2 cups hot water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
2tsp. sea salt, or mineral salt
4 1/2 cups freshly milled wheat flour (I combine hard red and hard white)
1 Tbs. SAF yeast

In my mixer, I combine water, egg and salt and begin mixing on low speed. Add 2 cups of the wheat flour and mix thoroughly. Add the yeast. Once that has been distributed, add the rest of the flour. Add one cup at a time so you will get a consistency of dough that begins to pull away from the side of the bowl when you pull the roller away. (I am basing this on my Electrolux mixer). Once the dough begins to pull away, put the arm about 1 to 2 inches from the side of the bowl and lock it into place. Then turn the speed on high and knead for about 7 minutes. Once it has kneaded, take it out of the bowl and divide the dough in half. Keep some extra flour on hand and put some on a pastry roller to form your pizza crust. Grease two cooking stones and shape dough into pizza shape.

We like to go around the edges with the small roller end and then use the larger one to spread the dough around the stone.

While you allow the dough to sit, prepare your sauce. I try to use organic tomato sauce and add italian seasonings, salt, herbs, even freshly grated parmesan cheese to the sauce. You use whatever your family prefers in the tomato sauce. I also like to put sauteed chicken on the pizza dough. I prepare my chicken earlier and season it with lemon pepper, salt and some Jamaican Jerk Rub from Pampered Chef. Divide the sauce between the pizzas and spread on the dough. Then place small bits of chicken on top of the sauce. I then grate Organic Raw Milk Cheddar Cheese on top of each pizza. I use 8 ounces of cheese for each pizza. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Some of my children can be picky eaters, so we try to keep the ingredients to a minimum. However, the sky is the limit here...put fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, etc. whatever you like. It is well worth it!

Yummy! It is work, but it is well worth it. I love the fact that I can make meals from scratch and give my family the benefits of the healthy meals. Give homemade pizza a may never want to go back to the fast food type again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Answering Some Misconceptions About Homeschooling

I am often asked from people I meet about the demands of homeschooling, or more importantly the costs, both in time and finances. I find that many people have some real misconceptions about what it takes to homeschool and why many homeschooler's have chosen this path. I remember when Joy was born. The last thing on my mind was homeschooling. But God has a way of changing our hearts and I am so grateful that He changed mine in this area. So, here are some of the common misconceptions I have found among those questioning homeschooling, or just trying to better understand it. Hopefully, this will give some insight into the often misunderstood world of homeschooling.

Misconception Number One: "I could never homeschool my child. I didn't go to college to be a teacher!"

Often when people find out that I have a degree in English teacher to be exact...they smile and say, "Well, see, I don't have a degree, so I could NEVER do that. You were trained to teach!" Well, yes and no. I was trained to teach English...but not reading, (students already knew how to do that when they came to me)...definitely not math, (my worst subject in the world ever!), not science, history, art...and the list goes on. I have been learning along with my children. One very wise person said that to homeschool, you only need to stay one day ahead of where your children are! That is so true! Some people just learn right alongside them. I have often said, I was never so educated as when I began educating my own children. I have a Master's degree in Library Science and I know more just from homeschooling my children these seven years than I ever learned in all the higher education that I received. You do not need a degree to homeschool your child...just the desire. The reason many homeschool children outperform many of their public school peers, in my opinion, is because the parent who loves their child is actually more interested in seeing the child succeed than even their teachers are. Amazing things can happen when someone who has a child's best interest in mind is also the one teaching them.

Misconception Number Two: "I could never afford to homeschool my children."

Once again, we make sacrifices for those things that are most important to us. When Jonathan and I first began was literally the time in our married life when finances were most lean. He was going to seminary full-time, working a full-time job and we were renting an apartment there on campus. I got odd jobs that I could do at home and worked it around my family life. We got most of our clothes from a clothing closet at a local church, or a free ministry among the seminary students. Times were lean, but we knew this is what God had called us to and He would provide. We have also found out that the most expensive and flashiest curriculum is not always the best. We have found a good Christian curriculum that is extremely advanced and grounds the children in God's Word. It is also extremely inexpensive. It does not have all the bells and whistles, but what does that matter anyway? It is the content that is most important, not how it is packaged.

Misconception Number Three: "Aren't you concerned with socialization?"

I have to admit...I LOVE THIS ONE! Of course I am concerned with socialization! That is why I homeschool! It is really quite comical that many believe that proper socialization is to put your five year old in a room with 20 or more other five year olds and that is proper socialization. No where else in society, or in their lives will they be in this same type of "socialization." Even if your children go to college, they are apt to have more ages in the same classroom. I would much rather have my children "socialized" by many different ages...peers we choose, adult interaction, siblings, and members of our local church. The problem with many children today is that they are being socialized by their peers who do not hold the same values as their parents do.

Misconception Number Four: "I will forever be tied down to the schooling of my children and never have anymore "ME" time."
This is probably one of the more legitimate concerns of many young mothers, especially those with many young children at home. However, many times all that "Me" time just makes us more selfish. Jesus did not call us to a life of happiness, but rather holiness. My life is not about is all about HIM! He has given me the grand task of raising a generation of children that loves Him...where am I more apt to do that? Will it more likely be while sending my children to the public school that does not honor God, or will it be more likely to be in the confines of my own home where I can truly walk alongside them in this spiritual journey we call life? I have often looked at other mothers and lamented the fact that I don't have the time for this and that because I homeschool so many young children. But, by God's grace, those times hardly ever come now. He is teaching me to see the grand plan through His eyes...the great privilege that He has given me by having His precious children in my care for a little while. When I stand before Him, He will not be concerned about the jewelry classes, the quilting classes, the scrapbooking that I did or did not do, but what did I do with the children He entrusted to me? And for those who do have many littles...I am finding, now that I have a twelve year old daughter that is taking more and more responsibility...I am finding time for more and more things. It may not be great blocks of time, but it is time that we are spending together...knitting our hearts closer and closer.

Misconception Number Five: "I don't have enough patience to homeschool my child! It is better that we are separated for a portion of the day!"
I used to think this too. There are times my patience is still one of my greatest struggles. But, you know, God has given me every bit of the Holy Spirit that I need to tackle this problem. And when I read my Bible, patience is one of the fruit of the Spirit that I have been given. Having children at home all day has confronted my lack of patience and therefore, God has a perfect opportunity to work on that much needed fruit in my life! Many times I have found that it is all about expectations. When I expect to have MY time, when I expect to have my children behave a certain way, etc...that is when I am most disappointed, and therefore become the most frustrated. I need to look at this job of mothering for what it is. This is a training time. Children are not born knowing it all...acting correctly all the time...etc. For that matter, mature Christians never get to that point until God calls us home! So, why do we expect more than we should from our children? Because it is incovenient for us, that is why. And that, of course, goes back to the whole selfishness issue.
Is homeschooling challenging? Absolutely! But what a challenge! It is also one of the most rewarding "careers" one will ever take on. I do not regret our choice to homeschool in the least. And I praise God for the fruit He allows us to see on a daily basis because of the choice we were led to make. I hope this helps clear up some misconceptions others may have about homeschooling and if for no other reason, to help many understand the heart of homeschooling from the perspective of a homeschooler. I pray you have a great day in the Lord!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sweet Days

Isn't it wonderful how it doesn't take much for children to come up with something so cute with their imagination? They create amazing things with the smallest of treasures...sticks, glue, feathers, Legos, etc. I am always in awe of the creativity of my children. I am so thankful that I have the privilege because of homeschooling to see those creative moments first hand! Here are some pictures of their latest creation...their hospital. Their lastest wounded?...our Sheltie Bonnie! She is such a great dog! She lets them play with her...almost fall on her...try to grab her tail...and still she just loves them. We do, however, train our children to take care of animals and not mistreat them, but sometimes little ones forget and must be reminded. But, Bonnie is ever faithful, watching out for them and keeping her calm around them regardless of what they do. Here she is, awaiting some great operation.

And here they are, accessing her condition, seeing how she will fare through surgery! Actually, she probably likes this exercise more than the others they play with her because here she can just lay there and relax!

Thought for today: Cherish the small things in life, because one day we will find out that they were really the big things! God bless!